The alleged presidential bid of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, which followed unsolicited posters by the Chairman of Ikere Local Government, Femi Ayodele, has exposed some of the underbelly of the current power struggle in the state, writes Victor Ogunje
On August 19, 2020, the alleged presidential bid of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State was unveiled, albeit unsolicited, with his poster flooding the social media platforms. Though many think the governor by his action and deed was not privy to the development, his ‘loyalists’ were desirous of seeing him take a plunge in 2023, because of their perception that he ticks all the boxes of a presidential material.
The persistent chorusing of a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and governor Fayemi’s names as being interested in the seat, has made the Southwest a political hotbed since 2019. Thus, the sharing of Fayemi’s presidential poster on the social media would automatically spark up more controversies that would heighten the chess game in the region perceived as a favourite, if the ticket is zoned to the south on the strength of rotational presidency.
Barely six months after President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for his second term, rumour of scheming for the 2023 presidential poll kicked off with the populace expressing surprise at the swift pace at which the permutations began. Indeed, the positioning during the 2019 election was all about 2023.
In Nigerian politics, nothing is taken for granted. The moment there is a suspicion that someone might likely be a favourite, politicians have a deft way of plotting, realigning and regrouping to have their ways or prevent certain individuals or groups from reducing their chances of getting the plum job and these have been dangerously playing out in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Immediately the rumour filtered into town, politicians of the APC extraction had started realigning and regrouping to outdo one another. The event culminating in the abrupt and wondrous dissolution of the National Working Committee might have also corroborated this assumption.
However, notable politicians rumoured to be having their eyes on the presidential seat include Tinubu, Fayemi, the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, former Rivers State Governor and Minister of Transportation, Chibuke Amaechi and the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, although El-Rufai has consistently canvassed for power to be zoned to the South in the spirit of fairness and equity.
Three years away from the actual presidential poll, highly convoluted underground horse-trading had sparked up some high-wire intrigues in APC. Those who are interested have upped the game to be able to get an upper hand in the impending political battle.
The most astounding aspect of it has been that the intrigues have started producing casualties three years before the actual political duel with the unexpected removal of the Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the dissolution of the entire National Working Committee (NWC) by National Executive Council, chaired by President Buhari.
The step was taken, when the political players, including party leaders and governors were subjecting APC to diverse unwarranted judicial onslaughts in desperate attempts to outwit one another ahead of 2023. This was seen to be quaking the party’s foundation and emasculating its seemingly invincible posture to some leaders.
Those who were virulently opposed to Oshiomhole perceived him as allegedly appropriating undue favour to a particular presidential hopeful in the party, which they considered as callow and unwise at this time.
In actual fact, of all those rumoured to be interested in the coveted seat, that of Tinubu has been the most pronounced. His allies from Lagos and across Nigeria have not hidden their readiness to hit the ground, when the time comes.
Already, they have ravenously taken over available social media platforms and tacitly setting up groups across the geo-political zones, oiling their engines and preparing grounds for smooth takeoff, when the time beckons.
Apart from their visible actions on the social media, they have been seen in newspapers granting interviews to launder Tinubu’s image and advance his cause as the candidate to beat.
On the other hand, the rumoured presidential aspirations of other party leaders have not gained open traction and pronouncement like that of Tinubu. They remained at the realm of rumour and suspicion.
The foregoing tendency has made things a little bit stroppy for political observers to fathom the situation correctly about how 2023 will look like, because none of the dramatis personae had come out to make any open pronouncement, but their body languages and the actions of their loyalists suggested so.
The cloudy hemisphere became further hazy on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, when a local government chairman, Otunba Femi Ayodele, designed and displayed Fayemi’s presidential poster unveiling the governor’s ambition on social media.
The message on the poster with APC logo read: “Support His Excellency, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi for President 2023” was sponsored by the Chairman of Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State. The poster shows Fayemi dressed in an adorable sky blue Agbada with a blue striped Awolowo’s signature cap.
But with the speed of light, the governor debunked knowledge of what he branded an ill-timed and preposterous poster. He didn’t just do that, he warned his appointees to refrain from any act that could derail governance and unsettle the ruling party especially with regards to the presidential debate. Furthermore, Ayodele has since been suspended by the state House of Assembly as a measure of deterrence to others like him.
Fayemi had succeeded in refuting the sponsorship of the poster, but the message contained therein had percolated so deeply, which was that his people wanted him as president in 2023 and they thought he could not afford to rebuff their deafening calls for this national service.
Situating the whole scenario in proper perspective and in tandem with the belief of his loyalists, Governor Fayemi has what it takes to lead Nigeria. By the end of 2023, he would have completed his second term in office, signposting that he must have garnered enough experience to weather the storm of presidency and deliver.
In terms of education, Governor Fayemi is one of the few scholars that were elected and superintending over the states as governors. He bagged a PhD in War Studies from the highly venerated Kings College, University of London. With this, he is more than armed academically to pilot the affairs of any nation.
When it comes to political association and network, Governor Fayemi standing as the Chairman of the NGF can’t be regarded as a pushover in politics and someone lacking the tentacles to pull the string. Leveraging on this influential position, the NGF chieftain can create a nightmare for the presidential ambition of anyone in APC.
Look at him from the prism of competence, Governor Fayemi has the knack and administrative shrewdness to navigate the bumpy road and swim through the murky waters to be a good President that can entrench a paradigm shift. His footprints in Ekiti based on performances in terms of policy formulation, Infrastructure face lifting and projects deliverable remain a reference point.
In national politics, putting it rightly, Governor Fayemi is not doing badly. He is an emerging power broker. His influence is extending and spiraling and no one could consider him a Lilliputian or minnow in any political battle, as doing so could be suicidal.
The cumulative effects of all these lent credence to the fact that he can’t be underrated or considered a misfit in the presidential debate under any political arrangement or economic situation.
But will the Nigerian system allow him? Based on experience and past records, those with competence and intimidating track records of performances hardly become the president. People are patiently waiting whether Fayemi will rewrite this ugly part of history when the time comes.
With the possible underground onslaught against Fayemi by some powerful forces in APC, it keeps no one in doubt that his profile had risen and assuming a frightening dimension.
With NGF’s pedestal, his reach has been profoundly enhanced beyond the APC and Southern enclaves. His colleagues in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have tremendous respect for his cool mien and strategic thinking and this could not have made some people, who have their prying eyes on the presidency uncomfortable.
Though this wouldn’t make Fayemi win the presidential ticket on a platter of gold, some other contenders are of coordinate weight or even better. But his meteoric rise is really unsettling some and the facts are there to substantiate this.
Most advantageous to him is the closeness and unrestricted access he has to President Buhari. This started during his time as the Minister of Mines and Steel Development. The NGF platform later broadened his reach in the presidency and added panache to his personality and lifestyle.
However, confirming the sponsorship of this controversial poster, the local government boss, Mr Ayodele, said he did the poster to show his unalloyed and uncompromising loyalty to Governor Fayemi against insinuation that he has sold out and working against him.
Ayodele posited that the governor fits enough for the exalted office considering his array of outstanding credentials, administrative shrewdness and political acumen.
“Fayemi’s commitment, resourcefulness and pedigree put him in good stead to lead Nigeria in the next political dispensation,” he stressed. While the LG boss is entitled to his opinion, Fayemi was not comfortable with his decision. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, Fayemi said he was not oblivious of the distraction such will cause to his government and denied ever authorising such publication at this untimely period.
With the way Fayemi sounded, he was displeased with the public being regaled with such publication at a time the APC was being repositioned to be able to regain its physique and strength ahead of that time. This must have necessitated the speed at which he debunked it.
Before the publication, the APC Southwest Publicity Secretary, Hon. Oladapo Karounwi, who is an Ekiti citizen never hid his excitement that Fayemi is one of the best men for the job and he perceived the publication as a clarion call and not the real battle itself. Karounwi said: “That publication was not sponsored by Governor Fayemi, that was not even his style. Though the people wanted him, because he has the competence and the qualities that can make him a good President.
“Governor Fayemi represented a new generation of young politicians that are making waves. He is operating in the digital frame and fits to be considered for the seat. He is a team player and detribalised individual, who can bind all the diverse Nigerian nationals together with his brain, national and global networks as well as his vitality.”
All said, politics, they say is a game of number. Does Fayemi belong to the majority in APC to be able to overcome other challengers in APC, because Presidency is not determined solely by competence? Can he match other contenders in terms of experience in national politics, deep financial war chest, large followership, acceptability, and other considerations? All these are issues his handlers and those who wish him well should ruminate about.
In Ekiti, today, the most reverberated political talk has remained Fayemi’s presidential ambition. He has not overtly pronounced such or acted in any suspicious manner that so suggested, but his loyalists and supporters want him in that position. Will he take the plunge, when the time is right? Shall he say amen to this wishful thinking? Time shall answer all the nagging questions.